Air Transport World

Airlines, manufacturers flock to CBT: improvements in hardware platforms and instructional methods combine to produce better-trained people at lower cost. (computer-based training)

When Wicat Systems held its first conference on the use of computer-based training in aviation in the fall of 1987, about 60 people attended and, says President/CEO Robert W. Mendenhall, CBT users "could be counted on one hand." By last September's third annual conference, which drew more than 200, he was able to report that every major manufacturer and virtually every major airline is using or planning to use" CBT to train pilots, maintenance technicians, flight attendants, ground-service personnel or other employee groups.

Airlines have had computers in their classrooms for a couple of decades now, so why the sudden surge in CBT? Technological advancements have played a role, as have the growing shortage of skilled workers and the ability of CBT to reduce training time and costs. But the most important factor appears to be that the pairing of improved instructional methods with modern computers enhances learning. By allowing students to progress individually at their own pace, practice as much as they need to and find out instantly when they've gone wrong and how to correct their mistakes, CBT produces "a better-trained individual," says Mike Karim, director of CBT for Northwest Aerospace Training Corp. (Natco), which conducts training for Northwest Airlines.

Standard color graphics

Thanks to the rapid growth in microcomputer capabilities, CBT no longer means text and questions on a black-and-white screen. Color graphics, animation, interactive video and digital audio are standard, as are management systems that give instructors a minute-by-minute check of student progress. Typically, CBT is teamed with classroom instruction, part-task and procedures trainers, and simulators.

CBT also has been spurred by the development by companies such as Wicat of sophisticated plain-language "authoring" systems that eliminate the need for computer programmers and allow experienced instructors to write their own courseware. And the definition now under way by an Aviation industry CBT Committee of a standard hardware platform that can play everybody's courseware can let airlines recover development costs by selling their materials. To foster this effort, Wicat strives to retain marketing rights to materials it produces so that it can add to its growing library of off-the-shelf programs. …

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